My Life In Tech is putting human faces to some of the innovative startups, investments and policy formations driving the technology sector across Africa.
Amin Ameen has created a growing and loyal community of individuals looking at life through art lenses and leveraging technology tools to upskill, improve their earning potential and get inspired to create. For this week’s My Life in Tech, Ameen talks about founding and growing her community, organising engaging virtual events and her delicate balancing act.
Three years ago, at an art district in Paris, Amin Ameen made an Instagram post with the hashtag #EverythingNaArt for the first time and urged people to use it on their posts; a call to action.
“I’ve always believed that everything in this life is art,” Ameen says, and the hashtag by which her community and brand is now named, was born out of this ideology.
The idea of everything viewed through the lens of art is what she considers a differentiator from one other as individuals. This subjectivity and nuance arising from the individualistic way that art is often interpreted is something, she says, can stand out one business from another; one life’s experience from the other; one brand representation from another.
Today, the hashtag has been used over 77,000 times and there are a few variations of it also in use on Instagram.
Ameen studied chemical engineering as an undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in mechanical engineering. She describes herself as the gadget junkie in her family, learning how to use a Macbook first and picking interest in how people consumed the technology products that were picking up steam around the late 2000s.
She bought her first Apple stock in 2007, the year the first-generation iPhone was announced, and bought her first Facebook stock in 2012.
Ameen spent 12 years at conEdison, an American energy company where she worked across project engineering, program management, and communication roles.
Using the skills developed from her 12-year stint at conEdison, Ameen began building a brand around products, product marketing/management, brand equity, and sales. She quickly became a go-to on Instagram when people needed to learn about new products, platform features, digital community building and engagement and the likes.
Having begun looking at digital tools from a consumer perspective, she had a wealth of knowledge across a diverse range of subject areas and soon attracted the attention of Facebook and Google who approached her for roles at the companies.
In 2018, Ameen moved to creating WhatsApp communities where she could engage better with her growing audience and offer even better value.
“First one filled up in 60 seconds,” she says.
“People that didn’t get in would share it on their Story,” and before long it became an exclusive group that everyone wanted to be a part of.
The second and third groups filled likewise and the fourth group became a paid-for cohort which filled up as easily as the first three.
“And then I started doing in-person courses and then moved to in-person conferences,” she explains.
EverythingNaArt is now a community of over 35k+ across various channels and enjoys a diverse range of services from Ameen whose work and ethics people often describe as excellent.
Building a highly-engaged online community
“My community was built by brand evangelists,” Ameen says.
“I’ve never done an ad [for the brand] in my life.”
And there are a number of reasons why she’s built a very loyal base around EverythingNaArt.
As is with every successful digital product, Ameen has built a platform where the needs of her community members are understood, met and then exceeded in the value that she offers them.
These needs, she says, are simple. Access, knowledge and a sprinkle of inspiration. For many, the need is to gain access to more high-paying roles or land jobs equal to their skill level. For others, it is to upskill, learn new ones or be motivated to get out of their comfort zones and pursue all the opportunities that the digital sphere offers and makes possible today.
From information about trainings, internship, scholarship and job opportunities to reading materials Ameen stays dishing nuggets of brand wisdom with the content she creates and shares with her community.
In May and June, Ameen brought together non-conventional entrepreneurs and technology executives who have worked or are working across different sectors with global brands like Uber, Google, Medium and Tik Tok for a series of IG Live sessions called the LinkUp. The need to start this series of mini conferences was to show younger Nigerians back home that there were people like them, Nigerians, who were working with companies like Google or Uber and these were realities that could become theirs.
While these first two have centered on tech and entrepreneurship, Ameen says she is looking to incorporate more fields of interests based on the needs of her community with subsequent events.
“Companies pay us to advertise job roles on our page because we give them quality staff,” Ameen says, but she is also not going to allow just any kind of job offers be made to her community members.
For instance, remote job opportunities that offer a monthly salary of less than ₦75,000 (US$194) will not make it to the community members nor will an in-person role that offers less than ₦150,000 (US$390) monthly.
There’s also a leading by example, she says, putting her money where her mouth is. Currently, the community page is run by members of the community and they get paid to do so.
Personal brand building, product marketing, soft skills necessary to thrive in the corporate world are other areas where she offers value to the members of her online community.
“You can’t force people to talk about you,” Ameen says.
Outside of Instagram, Ameen also has a 15,000 subscriber mailing list who receive even more insights and value in addition to all she shares on the community and social media pages. As with leading by example, the mailing list began from a challenge to her community members to take advantage of building across platforms and not relying on one given how dynamic the technology industry is.
While this is ideal, Ameen is quick to advise that newer platforms and features be adopted in ways that fit a brand’s mission and goals.
“The first thing I always ask myself whenever I see a new [technology] product or feature is, how does this apply to what I’m doing with my brand?
“If it doesn’t, if I can’t see a fit anywhere, I do not put pressure on myself to use that particular feature/product.”
And brands can learn from this too.
Virtual events and in-person experience
Across the globe, the last four months have seen organisations moving flagship, quarterly and annual events online. And despite the appreciable level of success with this switch and with a number of organisations now considering what wider opportunities virtual events create, keeping audiences engaged for the duration of a virtual event is still problematic.
According to this report from EventMB Studio, 40% of event planners have been unsuccessful with hosting virtual events this year. At the top of the reason why this is, is audience engagement.
Ameen has three-pointers for creating an event online that can mirror in-person events.
First is to design your virtual event in such a way that your attendees can walk through it as if they were physically present. This could mean creating and playing a welcome video or ensuring that attendees have a way to engage and converse with each other. But it is critical that the virtual components mirror what is possible in-person.
Secondly, she says it is important to organize to the tiniest bit of detail so that the audience can see that effort and thought has been put into creating a memorable experience for them.
Lastly, it is important that your audience has a call-to-action that follows the end of the event and possibly a way to stay connected with other attendees afterward. Never allow your event to end on a flat note, she stresses.
The balancing act
Balance is a myth and Ameen is not afraid to say that juggling all that she does is a constant struggle.
“I’m being very real,” she says and we laugh.
“I’m not always excellent at everything at the same time. That’s the best way I can describe it.”
But there is a detailed level of planning that she adopts amidst what she calls an organised spontaneity that often marks her work. Not only are daily activities listed out, they are timed to the minute one after the other.
“I am sometimes a procrastinator, so if I don’t structure the day well, I tend to not get anything done.”
When I ask Ameen what gets her up and going every day, there is not a moment’s pause before she says, “my son, Ayodeji”. She describes him as incredibly intelligent and her biggest cheerleader.
Outside of her son is her faith in the path that she’s on as a fulfilment of her God-given purpose.
“Each day that I am able to open my two eyes, no matter how hard it is, my son and God keep me remembering that I am not just here to play.”